TAKING IT TO THE FINISH LINE

Dave [Portner, who records as Avey Tare] has such a beautiful, smooth voice and is such a nice fellow. I really like Animal Collective [and they were the first outside artists to receive a license to sample the Grateful Dead] so he was tapped to give a voice to these recordings. And he just fell in with Hunter. He understood those words, felt it deeply. Hunter’s style is not for everybody; only for the few who really have the passion. So we had a few sessions and he worked perfectly. It was just a joyful experience.

And then there was Tank [Ball], who was a recent addition right toward the end. I wanted more of a female energy in these recordings; it was getting so male that I needed that to balance it out in order to get a clearer picture of humanity. She’s a brilliant, young lady. She nailed it; we co-composed some of the words. And she interpreted Hunter perfectly. She does what they call “slam poetry,” which is spoken-word but fast. She’s like a machine gun. She also has this lovely side—her voice is so expressive, just like Dave’s. They both have this wonderful emotional hit to the sound of their voice. They were easy to work with, and they were hungry. They really wanted this. And I let them fly as far as I could take them, as far as they wanted to go. We went to places I’ve never been before. Every day became an exciting vocal experience.

[Pretty Lights producer Michal Menert] also moved up this way. He was living in Colorado and needed a break. I’d heard Pretty Lights, and Michal and I just gelled well. He helped in the arranging and recording because of his expertise in Ableton Live. That’s really one of the big electronic helpers in composition—someone who could use that as an instrument and whip it around and have fun with it. He was a very important player in all of this, and he devoted almost a year of his time. We worked very closely on it together and took it to the finish line.

GREASED LIGHTNING


Oteil [Burbridge] is a master groovist. He’s a virtuoso player, totally in charge of his instrument on every level. You’d think somebody with that much technique would be able to do anything, yet he goes for the groove. He has this fantastic ability to play things that are out of the range of 99.9 percent of bass players. His hands are like greased lightning. His fingers move at a blinding speed, and yet he’s able to maintain the groove-solid. So he has all the embellishments you could want, while creating a deep pocket, which is the basis for the whole record. He just happened to show up at the studio, and I said, “Hey, Oteil, why don’t you try this?” I was mostly using my monochord, what they call “the beam,” as a bass.

I wanted to make a modern record without a lot of the cliché sounds: no keyboards, no cowbell, not very many tomtoms, and really no guitar— except for Steve Kimock, who is on a couple of tracks. That was one of the marching orders when I first started: I wanted to make new music with new instruments. Many of the sounds are homemade, homebrewed. They were born and raised here. They didn’t come from a Japanese machine, or somewhere from China. But there were a few songs where I just wasn’t satisfied with what I was getting on the beam. It was one of those serendipitous moments when Oteil came in at the end. Oteil’s my bandmate, and I know what he does. So he just folded right into the music.